Saturday, September 26, 2015

Module 5: Esperanza Rising

Book Summary: Esperanza comes from a wealthy Mexican family. However, when her father is killed by bandits, her Tio Luis gains custody of their house and money and wants to marry Esperanza's mother. Esperanza and her mother, with the help of some servants, escape to the United States, but it's during the Great Depression. They struggle to survive in the area at this time, going through many difficulties and hardships along the way.

APA Reference: Ryan, P.M. (2000). Esperanza rising. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 

Impressions: The book was a difficult read in that it was depressing to read so many hardships Esperanza had to suffer through. Even her trip to America is stressful and difficult, cramped in a tight space in fear of being caught. The book is written simply, however, and elegantly. There are also elements of Spanish sprinkled throughout, oftentimes with translations immediately following. This gives readers a subtle bilingual lesson while also reading a well-written riches-to-rags story.

Professional Review: Gr 6-9 --Ryan uses the experiences of her own Mexican grandmother as the basis for this compelling story of immigration and assimilation, not only to a new country but also into a different social class. Esperanza's expectation that her 13th birthday will be celebrated with all the material pleasures and folk elements of her previous years is shattered when her father is murdered by bandits. His powerful stepbrothers then hold her mother as a social and economic hostage, wanting to force her remarriage to one of them, and go so far as to burn down the family home. Esperanza's mother then decides to join the cook and gardener and their son as they move to the United States and work in California's agricultural industry. They embark on a new way of life, away from the uncles, and Esperanza unwillingly enters a world where she is no longer a princess but a worker. Set against the multiethnic, labor-organizing era of the Depression, the story of Esperanza remaking herself is satisfyingly complete, including dire illness and a difficult romance. Except for the evil uncles, all of the characters are rounded, their motives genuine, with class issues honestly portrayed. Easy to booktalk, useful in classroom discussions, and accessible as pleasure reading, this well-written novel belongs in all collections.

Goldsmith, F. (2000). Esperanza Rising (Book). [Review of the book Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan]. School Library Journal, 46(10), 171.

Library Uses: Tie into history lessons of the Great Depression from multiple perspectives, in this case the Mexican perspective.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Module 4: The One and Only Ivan

Book Summary: The book follows a gorilla named Ivan who was captured from the Congo and grew up in the United States, now residing at a run-down mall at a low-quality circus. He understands English and loves art. But when a new baby elephant named Ruby arrives at the circus, Ivan befriends and watches over her, eventually concocting a plan to help her escape this prison and get to a better place.

APA Reference: Applegate, K. (2011). The one and only Ivan. New York: HarperCollins Children.

Impressions: Told entirely from the perspective of Ivan the gorilla, The One and Only Ivan gives us a unique story dealing with friendship and loss mixed with a little prison break. The story might be difficult for the younger elementary age group. The lettering is big, and the chapters are short, but the themes and ideas are heavy. The book is oftentimes depressing as it deals with murdered (animal) families, kidnapped animals, death, mistreatment, torture, emotional pain, and more. It sometimes feels like an adult book wrapped in the guise of a children's book. But while it is written and executed well, I am not entirely sure how it would be received by a younger audience who is not mentally or emotionally prepared for such topics. However, it does carry good morals to teach children, such as perseverance and bravery.

Professional Review: How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human--except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers' passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.
Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author's note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates, (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Kirkus Reviews. (2012). The one and only Ivan (Book). [Review of the book The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate]. Best Fiction & Children's Books, 45-46.

Library Uses: With a heavy discussion of art within the book, this novel could be used with an assignment where students have to draw scenes from the book and how they picture the event in their heads.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Module 3: Lon Po Po

Book Summary: After three girls' mother goes to visit their sickly grandmother, a wolf disguises itself as their grandmother--Po Po--in order to sneak in and eat them. But the girls are a bit too crafty for the wolf.

APA Reference: Young, E. (1989). Lon Po Po. New York: Penguin Putnam.

Impressions: In this Chinese retelling of Little Red-Riding Hood, there is a unique twist on the tale where rather than one girl who meets a stranger (wolf) in the woods on the way to grandma's house, we have three girls who are left home alone and must deal with a home invasion. It's a familiar tale story-wise that is altered just enough to warrant a new retelling, particularly with the craftiness of the girls. But as this is also a Caldecott winner, so the true star of the story is the artwork. With gorgeous water color art fit within a graphic novel panel styling, this is one memorably visual book.

Professional Review: Grade 1-5-- A gripping variation on Red Riding Hood that involves three little sisters who outsmart the wolf ( lon or long in Cantonese) who has gained entry to their home under the false pretense of being their maternal grandmother ( Po Po ). The clever animal blows out the candle before the children can see him , and is actually in bed with them when they start asking the traditional "Why, Grandma!" questions. The eldest realizes the truth and tricks the wolf into letting them go outside to pick gingko nuts , and then lures him to his doom. The text possesses that matter-of-fact veracity that characterizes the best fairy tales. The watercolor and pastel pictures are remarkable: mystically beautiful in their depiction of the Chinese countryside, menacing in the exchanges with the wolf, and positively chilling in the scenes inside the house. Overall, this is an outstanding achievement that will be pored over again and again.

Philbrook, J. (1989). Lon Po Po (Book). [Review of the book Lon Po Po, by Ed Young]. School Library Journal, 35(16), 97.

Library Uses: Used to discuss fairy tales and/or interpretations around the world.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Module 2: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Book Summary: Alexander knows he's going to have a really bad day when he wakes up with gum in his hair. Of course, things just get worse as minor annoyances build on top of each other to build one really big, terrible day.

APA Reference: Viorst, J., & Cruz, R. (Illustrator). (1972). Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Impressions: On a first reading, "Alexander..." is a bothersome read about a boy with a bad attitude who throws a day-long fit for no major reasons and with no resolution. Upon further reflection, however, I find the book to be much smarter than originally perceived. The book takes a look at how anybody can feel like they have had the worst day ever when, in fact, it's been merely a culmination of inconsequential annoyances that have built up on each other to create a breaking point. Everybody has had days like that where just waking up in the morning starts you off on the wrong foot and everything seems to continually go wrong from there. It's a good reminder that adults are not the only ones who have days like that, either.

Professional Review: In the spiky spirit of Sunday Morning (1969) but more truly attuned to a child's point of view, Viorst reviews a really aggravating (if not terrible, horrible, and very bad) day in the life of a properly disgruntled kid who wakes up with gum in his hair and goes to bed after enduring lima beans for dinner and kissing on T.V.

At school, "Mrs. Dickens liked Paul's picture of sailboat better than my picture of the invisible castle," and at lunch, "guess whose mother forgot to put in dessert?" After school "my mom took us all to the dentist and Dr. Fields found a cavity just in me," and there is worse to come. It's no wonder the kid's ready to move to Australia, but in the end, "My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia."
If Alexander's mother is smart to offer casual sympathy without phoney consolation, Cruz and Viorst accord readers the same respect.
Kirkus Reviews. (2012). Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Retrieved from 

Library Uses: Do a book talk, particularly with younger students, and to teach about how we all have bad days sometimes. Lead into a discussion about bad days students have had.